Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is Scripture Full of Contradictions?

"The Bible is full of contradictions." This is a statement often taken for granted, even by those who are not quite sure what the "contradictions" are. But I would be dishonest to deny that there are problems. This is not surprising, given that many people have put considerable effort into looking for such problems. How, then, are those of us who believe the Bible is the Word of God to respond to such problems? Now it is beyond the scope of this post to deal with the systematic issues, such as creation versus evolution and whether science disproves miracles, though I have written of them elsewhere. Rather, I would like to deal with the incidental problems that, for many, seem more important than the real, basic conflicts.

Now it is not surprising, in an ancient book, where the cultural and historical background is imperfectly understood, where our knowledge of the language is limited, and where there has been a certain, though minor degree of textual corruption, that there would be problems. We live in a world under sin and a curse, where all things suffer from corruption. While I believe that God has overridden this to a large degree to preserve the substance of His Word (the preservation of the Bible is incredible, compared to books of any similar date), He is not willing to override the principle entirely.

It must also be remembered that many of the problems have solved by further information about the background history. Take, for instance, the King Belshazzar  of Daniel 5, who was thought fictitious until he was found in Babylonian records. Others are resolved by a fuller understanding of Christian theology. Take, for instance, the conflict between 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1, which is easily resolved based on Job 1 and 2. Many others have good answers. And  while there still difficulties, they need to be looked at in view of what has been answered.

But the bottom line is that while I do think that Christians need to address these issues (though to address them all in detail is beyond the scope of a post of any reasonable size), we need to ask if we really want to base our philosophy of life one way or the other on such things. Should we not start by addressing the areas of substance, rather than incidental matters? The individual who, based on broader principles, concludes that the Bible is the Word of God will often not be impressed by such minor difficulties and will be willing to trust God for the answers to them, even if they cannot easily see what they are. The individual who has rejected the Bible based on broader principles will often see the smallest difficulty as inexplicable and will reject all attempts at explanation. Perhaps we should start by dealing with the basic issues, and from our conclusion on those, the details would be put in perspective.

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